Trucks and critters

That truck has the food you are going to buy at the grocery store tomorrow. Just thought I should remind you. It’s easy to forget that everything you buy at your local Kroger, Jewel, Copp’s, Wegman’s, Ralph’s, Albertsons, Winn Dixie, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc got there on a truck. Actually it was probably trucked around multiple times. Depending on how much processing went into the product, it could have been moved around all over the place:

1. Raw materials trucked to the factory…
2. Finished goods trucked from the factory to the company’s warehouse/distribution center…
3. Finished goods/products ordered by above grocery store chain and then trucked to that grocery store’s warehouse…
4. Individual grocery store orders products from warehouse and they are trucked in to the individual grocery store.
5. You buy it.

Since I read somewhere that 95% of food brought into schools is frozen, so you know there are a lot of trucks and warehousing involved in the transportation of school food. Essentially, it’s the opposite of Farm to School.
I’d also like to point out the obvious of this post (and the 101 school lunches I have eaten thus far): we’re relying on the abundance of cheap gas to keep this whole operation afloat. As soon as the price of oil goes up, our current food system gets a whole lot more expensive. Overly processed food is unsustainable.

***

When a product is warehoused, it sits. And if you have every worked in food service, you know that a lot of the boxes you get have little “critters” visit them. Food companies spray warehouses to kill bugs. I never saw mice when I worked in food service, but I did see the occasional cockroach.

Do you remember when Milk*bone used to have just boxes of their dog biscuits without lining? My mom put two and two together and stopped buying them for our family dog because my mom was concerned that our family dog might be eating trace amounts of pesticides from warehouse fumigation.

Also I never accept cardboard boxes from grocery stores to use when I pack up belongings in anticipation of a move. In my opinion, I could either get cockroaches in my stuff or expose my clothes and housewares to toxins from spraying in warehouses. I prefer to purchase moving boxes from packing companies or in a pinch use old computer paper boxes.

I’ve got the creepy crawlies now. Shiver.

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20 Responses to Trucks and critters

  1. RLR July 8, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    Eww. Ick. I have to go get groceries tomorrow.

    On another note, I'm thinking you might need a step between 1 and 2. Raw materials to factory -> bulk finished goods to packager -> packager to warehouse. May not always work that way, but I imagine that there are times it does. Which means more packaging, more miles, more fuel, more sitting around and being fumigated.

    And again – Eww. Ick.

    But thanks for making me (and lots of other folks) THINK about our food!

  2. Stepshep July 8, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    What about planes and boats? My plums from Peru fly on a plane.

  3. Mrs. Q July 8, 2010 at 2:14 am #

    @RLR – Yes, those sound like steps that need to be added.

    @Stepshep – You and your fancy plums! Planes and boats too!

  4. Anita July 8, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    My mind went immediately to my dog's milkbones. There's no liner in it. Hmmm…

  5. luluvillage July 8, 2010 at 3:32 am #

    I am wondering- maybe gas prices rising (yes, bad for all drivers) might be good for schools- it would force the Farm to School option as a cheaper one- and it all comes down to $ and budget when you talk to DOE, no?

  6. another lunch July 8, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    GROSS. Gag me with a fork, disgusting.

    You just saved me from a couple hundred empty calories I was about to consume, because you just effectively killed my appetite for the bowl of ice cream I had a hankering for. Thanks! 😉

  7. Darrin July 8, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    Scary! Now if we could only get some pics of the factories where all of this "food" is made…

  8. Ann July 8, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    This is why most Europeans insist on using a straw or a glass when it comes to drinking canned drinks -you never know what might've crawled across the top of those cans along their travels from factory to store. You certainly wouldn't want to put your mouth directly on the packaging. Yikes!

  9. Tracey from Central Coast Seachange July 8, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    Interesting that you mention cockroaches. I recently had the Rentokill guy come and de-cockroach our house. He said that cockroaches really live in places such as industrial kitchens and when we get them in our houses it is mainly through cardboard boxes!! Love your blog btw.

    We don't have cooked meals at schools here in Australia, unless kids are at boarding school. Our school canteens have a traffic light system for what the Department of Education allows them to sell. I'll add more on that later, you may find it informative.

  10. Anonymous July 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    not to mention the chemicals sprayed on all fruits and veggies that come from other countries.

    When we had our house tented for termites, the company said the chemical they use was the similar to or even the same as the one they spray on the fruit before allowing into the country. Not sure if anyone knows how accurate his statement is.

  11. Julia July 8, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    Wow! Pesticide use in warehouses and on warehouse boxes is something I never thought of before. Another thing to consider; thanks for the post, Mrs. Q!

  12. Kim July 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    A friend of a friend of mine has a small farm just a couple of miles from my friend's home. When the farm family goes away, my friend takes care of their animals and sometimes I go along with her. They have about 5 or 6 chickens and we get to gather and take home their eggs which taste amazing. That's what got me buying local eggs whenever I can.

    The thing is, local eggs usually are more expensive than the ones produced 500+ mi. away which puzzles me a bit. The only way I can think to explain it is that the producer 500 mi. away is likely a much larger operation than my local egg producers and there's an economy of scale that offsets the price of shipping enough that the big producer can charge far less for its eggs. I've found the same price situation in many other locally-grown foods. I don't know how we fix this problem in a way that's fair to everyone. Ideally, it should pay for consumers to buy local rather than food produced hundreds of miles away or even thousands of miles away in the case of plums from Peru. I don't mean to pick on your plums, Stepshep. Believe me, I've purchased my fair share of produce shipped in from overseas!

    Within a couple of miles of my home, there are half a dozen berry farms. I can go to any of them and pick my own or I can buy berries picked by farm employees the same morning. Even if I pick my own, they cost at least twice what I can buy berries for at the supermarket. Those supermarket berries are virtually always trucked in from FL or CA. I live in CT so I'm talking berries that have travelled 1,000 mi. from FL or 3,000+ mi. from CA. It sort of defies logic.

    Many years ago, I worked as a hostess at an Italian restaurant. When things were slow, I used to assemble pizza boxes. The boxes came to the restaurant flat and sealed in shrink wrap. The manager told me to stop at X number of boxes because they didn't want to accumulate more than a day's worth of assembled boxes. They found that the longer the assembled boxes sat around, the more likely bugs were to take up residence in the boxes. Eew eew eew!!!! So if you see huge stacks of assembled pizza boxes in a restaurant, especially near closing time, I wouldn't recommend buying pizza there.

  13. Viki July 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Well, we have had "cave crickets" those huge hump back greys come in with the dog food before.
    Makes me nuts.
    Your post brought up a number of good topics for discussion here, Chemical pesticides, residue on food and containers, and of course the cost of all that moving of food from place to place.

    If the price of fuel goes up and our current government is pushing for an increase in gas costs to help pay for other forms of energy development, the price of food will rise. I wonder if they have even thought of the problem of feeding the school children yet. I'd say they haven't. It isn't on the agenda. Out of sight out of mind.
    For families. I'd say start buying local and learn to grow some of your own food.

  14. Anonymous July 8, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Sorry to break it to you, but computer paper boxes were probably in warehouses where there were pesticides sprayed. Packaging boxes bought from the moving company probably sat in a warehouse where pesticides were sprayed. There are bugs that will eat the cardboard and paper and they get sprayed for to protect the stock as well. In fact, cockroaches don't eat food particles. They eat paper.

  15. Anonymous July 8, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    Kim,
    The reason your grocery store eggs are so much cheaper than your farm eggs is because of the ways in which the chickens are raised and kept. I'm not going to go into details here, but I assure you, it's horrific.
    I highly encourage you to watch Food Inc. which is all about how mass-marketed food (everything from meat to corn to apples) is destroying not only the way americans eat, but the way americans farm. It will break your heart.

    It's truly a must-see for any adult who wants to be educated about things that directly affect them. Don't watch it with the kids, though, they'll never eat again.

  16. Mona July 8, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    Question for you Mrs. Q. Did you have any digestive issues during your school-lunch-eating days? I work for a research team that studies the affects of processed foods stored in plastics and papers on the digestive tract and stomach. Did you notice any abnormalities?

  17. whatevs July 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    On a similar note, years ago I worked at a small women's clothing store, often doing stock. One day I was doing shoes, removing the paper from inside the boxes before putting them on the shelf. Inside one particular style of shoe boxes were TONS of dead crickets! I freaked out and refused to do them, manager ended up doing them herself. So gross. Women actually bought and wore these boots without knowing about it. Definitely made me think twice about where things come from!!(which btw was China, but goodness only knows when those crickets decided to hitch a ride!)

  18. Kathy July 8, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    One way to avoid paranoia over dog treats is to make your own. Most, if not all, the ingredients are already in your pantry and fridge, and if you can roll out cookie dough, you can make dog treats. The web abounds with recipes.

  19. Corinne July 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    I once had a biology professor who explained WAY too thoroughly about the critters in our food. For instance, the FDA allows an acceptable amount of rat droppings in wheat silos (which becomes flour later). This is one of the many reasons why you shouldn't eat raw cookie dough. Now, think about all the grains (corn, rice, wheat, etc.) that is stored in silos. Not exactly a sanitary situation.

    Realistically, though, a little bit of bug "crud" isn't bad for you. Some experts attribute our obsession with cleanliness to sky-rocketing rates of asthma and allergies. As a species, we were heartier when we were less obsessed with sanitation. I'm not saying that we should eat pesticides, just that there's not point in losing sleep over the possibility of a bug having had contact with your dog biscuits, pop can, or paper box.

  20. Anonymous July 9, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    My husband & I were just talking about this and how it relates to fish/sushi.

    Did you know that all of the fish that they serve at a sushi restaurant in the US has to be frozen for a certain amount of time before it is served?

    It's technically never "fresh" when you are eating at a sushi restaurant – some of the fish is kept frozen for 3+ years before you eat it!

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